Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kashgar and Lake Karakul

I'm still in Kashgar - I think I'm leaving tomorrow for Urumqi.

Kashgar doesn't feel like China. Many many people don't speak any Chinese but only their native Central Asian language, most of which use a modified Arabic script. It's really strange to see Chinese characters and Arabic letters on signs all over town, and interestingly enough it makes Chinese, both the language and the Han people, seem foreign and a bit unwelcome. In any case, this is a fun place to walk around through bazaars and winding alleys of old houses. Hopefully some of the pictures will turn out.

Yesterday I went up towards the border with Pakistan to Lake Karakul, a beautiful blue lake in an alpine meadow. I walked all the way around it, which may have been a mistake since one end was pretty marshy and populated by more mosquitos than the Amazon. During my navigation of puddles, streams, and mud, I found myself walking along a sand bar that separated the main lake from the surrounding puddles. It seemed firm enough until I came upon a little stream flowing over the top of it, no more than 2 feet wide, but when I stepped next to it the ground suddenly sunk beneath me, filling my shoes with sand and soaking me up to my knees. And the mosquitos wouldn't give me a minute's rest to stop and get the sand and little rocks out. What inconsiderate creatures.

On the lakeshore, there were many local people who had built an extra yurt that tourists could stay in, but the idea of spending a night on a yak rug with my allergies was less than attractive, so I took the bus back in the afternoon. All went well until we came upon a huge mudslide with a creek running down it, all snowmelt from the surrounding mountains. It took more than an hour for the earthmoving machine to arrive and finally clear a car-wide alleway through the muck. I didn't really mind the wait, though, as the surrounding canyon was beautiful and watching someone scoop mud off the road can actually be quite entertaining.

Since today's my last day in town, I'm going to get out and walk around.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I'm writing this post from an internet cafe in Kashgar, one of the westernmost cities in China. It's famuos as being an oasis on the Silk Road. I just arrived today after a 24 hour bus ride from Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. I didn't really spend much time there either since I'll have to pass through again on my way back to Xi'an. My flight for Indianapolis leaves on the morning of August 1 from Xi'an so I will need to be back there by the 30th or 31st. In the meantime, I plan to see what life is like here in China's Wild West, hopefully getting to see some beautiful high-altitude lakes and mountains along with the vast expanse of desert I saw pass by the window yesterday.

Time to go eat some kebabs.

Friday, July 13, 2007

end of the school year

Apologies for the extended silence. I've been taking care of all those fun end-of-the-semester things, such as exams, grades, and, most importantly, my plans for next year. I will be moving to the Chengdu University of Technology in, as the name implies, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in what is considered Southwest China, about 16 hours southwest of Xi'an by train. I'll have pretty much the same financial, living, and teaching arrangement (up to 16 hours of class per week) there as I do here, and when I visited the city a few weeks ago I liked it much better than where I'm living now. The campus was nice with lots of trees and other greenery and a man-made lake or two to sit around and study or what have you, a stark contrast with the dry still-under-construction campus I live on now. A change of scenery will also be nice, not to mention providing me with the opportunity to learn about a different part of Chinese culture.

Before I move to Chengdu, though, I get to travel. First, I'll probably be heading to Xinjiang province in the far west of China, hopefully flying from here to Ürümqi next Tuesday if I get my visa extension in time. From there I'd like to head west to Kashgar and the border with Pakistan, then back along the Southern Silk Road. How far I take that will depend on timing - I need to be back in Xi'an around July 31 to start the international part of my vacation.

The details are still fuzzy but if what my boss is telling me is true, the ticket the school is buying for me should have me arriving in Indianapolis on the first of August. I'll spend most of the month in Cincinnati and Illinois, probably leaving for Chengdu between August 26-31. I'm very much looking forward to seeing everyone - it's been a long time and this online communication just isn't the same.

Well now I'm going to get to buying my plane ticket for next semester. If there's anything you want from China, don't hesitate to ask - I should have plenty of room in my luggage - just please don't ask for all the tea. They don't like that.